The first time I remember ever flipping over in a van, while driving down a highway, was sometime around 1996 give or take a year on either end, after attending a Hoffman BS comp in Daytona Beach at Stone Edge Skatepark.
I can’t remember exactly, But I think I drove down to the event withe the late great Colin Winkelmann, and hitched a ride elsewhere after the fact…
Paul Murray, who had been working for Mat Hoffman previously, was heading to his hometown in Wilmington North Carolina after the event, where my parents lived, so I jumped in with him. I was living in Ohio at the time, and hadn’t seen my family in a long while.
Paul was driving an off white late 80’s Mitsubishi van outfitted as a work vehicle with a raised floor that doubled as a tool box, for power tools and the like. On top of the particle board structure was some indoor/ outdoor carpeting. With Paul were 2 other young riders, Andrew Lorek, and His cousin Ahman, who lived in the same area, also heading back to Wilmington after the event in Daytona.
I had my BMX bike, and a back pack, loaded up and headed out with some new traveling companions, That I barely knew…
We left on a sunday afternoon, heading up interstate 95, tackling a 500 some odd mile drive, in a freighted Japanese 4 cylinder utility van. I kicked off my sneakers, and made a makeshift sleep spot on the tool box, with my bag as a pillow, and off we went.
We travelled a good distance north, up near Jacksonville Florida in and out of traffic on a busy highway, I tried relaxing, while preparing for a long journey, half paying attention to the road behind the driver. I was balancing somewhere between, exhausted, anxious, restless and happy to see my folks. In-between small talk, I started dozing off shortly there after, and was quickly rattled to consciousness by a swerving van.
In front of us was a loaded pick-up truck, with lawn furniture, and a couple plastic lawn chairs flew out, into traffic. Paul, doing what any driver would do, tried steering around a foreign object in front of him on the highway, unfortunately the weight, and handling capacity of the van didn’t work in Paul’s favor, and he started losing control of the vehicle. A turn left, a hard turn right, and before anyone could really react, the van had tipped over, rolled onto its roof and slid to a halt on Rt. 95.
Imagine quickly transitioning from the normal sound of the highway underneath the wheels of the van, to ctually being underneath the wheels of the van, upside down, and listening to metal scraping, the pop of windows shattering and bits of glasses dispersing to the back drop of ssliding steel and human terror across asphalt.
I don’t recall exactly what happened with the other passengers, but I was upside down, with no shoes on, under the weight of a particle board tool box, draped by carpeting, completely discombobulated, and quickly registering the sound in my brain of a battery operated power tool that had turned on mid tumble. All of this was pretty overwhelming, and hard to process, with passerby’s trying to help, the mystery power tool, broken glass everywhere, with me trying to maneuver under the weight of the toolbox, and suffocating in the florida heat under a carpet. Frantic shouts from outside the van made me more nervous, would the van catch fire? Was that buzz a sawz-all aimed at my neck? And more, where were my shoes?
“HEY MAN YOU GOTTA GET OUTTA THERE!”
Ya, but where are my shoes?
I remembered pretty specifically after getting from underneath the contents of the van, not wanting to step on the hot pavement, peppered in glass shards, barefoot, and simply asked for help finding my shoes.
Traffic was backed up for miles, as friends heading the same direction passed by, noticing we were the cause for delay, as they witness the over turned Mitsubishi van, and 4 BMX kids standing in the bees nest of flashing lights and chaos. I eventually found my shoes, gathered my belongings, as did the rest of the guys, and we ended up, later that evening, renting a sedan to continue the journey. Luckily the power tool was just a cordless drill, and the Van never went up in flames, It could have been a lot worse.
We were all relatively unscathed, maybe a bit shook up, and drove into the night aimed at the Cape Fear river basin. The rest of the trip was spent buzzing from Adrenalin, listening to radio Music, and passing through one of the worst thunder/lightning/torrential rainstorms I had ever witnessed. My nerves were shot, the van was totaled, but we made it…